Call for Papers – Platform Politics

I’ve taken some extended time off from blogging to finish up the semester and a writing project — both of which are now wrapped up.  Expect more regular content from me again, soon.  For now, here’s a call for papers from one of my favorite journals, Culture Machine.  The topic of the special issue is “platform politics,” which is very much in keeping with Tarleton Gillespie’s work on “The Politics of Platforms” and my own, ongoing writings on algorithmic culture.  It promises to be a timely and important issue, in other words.

CALL FOR PAPERS – “Platform Politics”

Special issue of Culture Machine, vol. 14;

edited by Joss Hands (Anglia Ruskin University) Greg Elmer (Ryerson University) Ganaele Langlois (University of Ontario Institute of Technology)

This special issue of the peer-reviewed, open access journal Culture Machine on the concept of ‘Platform Politics’ will explore how digital platforms can be understood, leveraged and contested in an age when the ‘platform’ is coming to supplant the open Web as the default digital environment.

Platforms can be characterized as resting on already existing networked communication systems, but also as developing discreet spaces and affordances, often using ‘apps’ to circumvent any need to access them via the Internet or Web. For this issue of Culture Machine we are seeking papers that explore the nature and distinctive aspects of the ‘platform’: as something that can be positioned as more than just a neutral space of communication; and as a complex technology with distinct affordances that have powerful political, economic and social interests at stake. In this respect the platform constitutes a zone of contestation between, for example, different formations and configurations of capital; social movements; new kinds of activist networks; open source and proprietary software design. Platforms also constitute spaces of struggle between mass movements and governments, users and the extractors of value, visibility and invisibility: witness the various debates over the role of ‘social media’ in the Arab Spring, anti-austerity, student and occupy movements. Such struggles entail a compelling intersection between technology and design, capital, multitude, the democratization of technology and ‘subversive rationalization’.

The platform represents not just a question of software and control, then; it also connects to wider social struggles in the sense that ‘platform’  can refer to a ‘political platform’, and can thus take on the agenda setting or framing role of political discourse more generally. Accordingly, this special issue will look to understand ‘platform politics’ as a broad social assemblage, complex or form of life. Linking particular platforms across the molecular and molar, it will think about platform politics as a distinct new context of power operating at the intersection of technological development, software design, cognitive/communicative capitalism, new forms of social movement and resistance, and the attempts to contain them by the exiting democracies. As such, platform politics requires a distinct mode of engagement, which this special issue of Culture Machine will endeavour to encourage and provide.

We invite contributions on topics such as:

  • Protocols as machinery of the platform – its common language, including ideas of control and/or the possibilities and limitations of open, non-proprietorial platforms.
  • The specific relationship between networks and platforms (including the discussion of whether the former are being subsumed by the latter), and distribution vs centralization/aggregation — not least in terms of user created content and content management systems (code politics of algorithms, and the use of APIs).
  • The question as to whether a process of enclosure is taking place via the struggle over the creation and expropriation of ‘network value’, or whether it entails a more parasitical engagement with, and enhancement of, the existing network architectures.
  • Visibility/invisibility: platforms as political spaces to be seen/heard, or indeed tactically escaped and eluded.
  • Resistance: how the above described issues relate to the potential for cultural, political, social and economic praxis, which in turns opens up a space from which to address recent global events. (See, for example, RIMs (Blackberry Messaging’s) enclosure, which ironically creates spaces of resistance as well as disturbance and securitization.)
  • New software possibilities: for example, Drupal’s opening up and democratization of content management, which perhaps creates a kind of ‘platform commons’? The potential of ‘Diaspora’, the open source social network, to offer a viable alternative to proprietary social media.
  • The role of intrinsic network tendencies, as opposed to political and economic decision-making, taking in explorations of the relevance of graph theory, the role of power laws and the network-specific characteristics of ‘communication power’.

Deadline for submissions of complete articles: 1st November 2012

Please submit your contributions including contact details by email to Joss Hands:

Culture Machine’s Guidelines for Authors:

All contributions will be peer-reviewed.

Established in 1999, CULTURE MACHINE ( is a fully refereed, open-access journal of cultural studies and cultural theory. It has published work by established figures such as Mark Amerika, Alain Badiou, Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, N. Katherine Hayles, Ernesto Laclau, J. Hillis Miller, Bernard Stiegler, Cathryn Vasseleu and Samuel Weber, but it is also open to publications by up-and-coming writers, from a variety of geopolitical locations.

!!! New 2012 issue on attention economy coming out soon!!!


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